A provocative new health and safety campaign has been launched to help reduce injuries and fatalities on farms and address the human toll from producing food in New Zealand.
The Half-Arsed Stops Here campaign and Farm Without Harm strategy are taking the health and safety message straight to the heart of rural communities.
As part of the initiative, industry leaders and farmers from across New Zealand are signing a pledge, committing to keeping those working on farms healthy and safe.
The programme is being launched at a dairy farm near Dunsandel in mid-Canterbury on June 29 and a sheep and beef farm near Carterton in Martinborough in the Wairarapa on June 30.
It has been developed by the Agricultural Leaders’ Health and Safety Action Group (Safer Farms), the organisation dedicated to leading, redesigning and inspiring a safer farm culture throughout New Zealand.
Safer Farms chair Lindy Nelson said Farm Without Harm is a bold, system-wide strategy and action plan developed by the agricultural sector for the agricultural sector in response to the concerning and persistent rates of harm on farms.
“Collectively, we proudly produce billions of dollars worth of world-class food annually destined for consumers across the globe. Yet last year 13 farmers lost their lives on New Zealand farms and more than 2000 of us suffered serious injuries that forced us off work for a week or more.
“The cost of producing food in New Zealand is too high – the injuries, deaths and mental harm as a result of accidents on our farms is hurting families, workers, and rural communities.”
Developed over two years, the Farm Without Harm strategy was co-designed with farmers and their communities, iwi, Māori, industry leadership bodies and primary sector organisations.
“This strategy represents a fresh approach to wellbeing on our farms,” Nelson said.
“It involves gaining a deeper understanding of different forms of harm, redesigning our farming systems to prevent harm, and fostering a caring culture among us.
“To address these harms, we have identified ways we need to work differently and four high-harm areas that need an urgent focus — risks to mental health resulting in reduced wellbeing, harm experienced while working with vehicles and machinery, physical stress and injuries from handling livestock, and harm caused by exposure to agricultural chemicals and airborne risks.
“Instead of relying on high vis vests or helmets, we are looking to eliminate harm from the system wherever we can by working and learning together to find solutions, understanding that safety starts with a culture of care and continuing to invest in new approaches.
“This is our line in the sand, it’s a recognition that we need to do things differently.
“Ultimately, it’s about coming together as a sector to find and share solutions that work best for us, while rejecting anything that puts ourselves or others at risk.”
The Half-Arsed Stops Here campaign is a provocative message to start changing attitudes and a key component of the Farm Without Harm strategy, Nelson said.
“It will get people’s attention and that is the aim. ‘Half-arsed’ is a language farmers recognise and use. This is about farmers having everyday conversations that lead to safer outcomes. This is not a judgment about when things have gone wrong. When things go wrong, it’s a tragedy. Every farmer knows someone who has been injured or lost a loved one.
“This is a recognition that we have to find solutions and be focused and committed in finding these. We can’t be half-arsed about the problem or finding solutions.”
Kate Acland, chair of Beef + Lamb New Zealand and a Mount Somers sheep, beef and dairy farmer said: “Looking after people is central to the success of our sector, it just makes sense. Healthy and safe farms are attractive places to live and work and this is vital so we can attract the best people to our fantastic sector. Safer Farms, the Farm Without Harm strategy and the pledge is a great example of an industry-led solution that we’re excited to support.”
Wayne Langford, president of Federated Farmers, said every farmer should be coming home safely to their family after work each day.
“We need to be taking health and safely on New Zealand farms seriously, but solutions and systems need to be designed by farmers if they’re going to work in a practical sense.”